The MOOC Decade. 380 million students later.

1000+ Universities, 30,000 courses, 50 Degrees and counting.

2020 MOOCs

MOOCs started the last decade as a proof of concept and finished with 380 million students taking over 30 thousand courses and 50 degrees from over 1000 Universities globally.

HolonIQ indexes millions of ‘Signals’ (News Articles, Analyst Notes and Top Tier Blogs) spanning the last decade to zoom out and look for patterns explaining the evolution of how we got to where we are today or pointing to scenarios and potential directions global education may head in the future.

We analysed the flow and sentiment of signals about MOOCs over the last decade as we contemplate how these platforms will evolve over the next 10 years and help to shape online post-secondary education and training.

But first, some context.

Quick History

The first MOOC, ‘Connectivism and Connective Knowledge/2008 (CCK8)’ was offered in 2008 by Stephen Downes and George Siemens, but the platforms we still call MOOC’s today (which we put into our OPX Meta-Category) were initiated by a group of Stanford professors.

In 2012, Sebastian Thrun announced his ‘Introduction to Artificial Intelligence’ MOOC and within a few weeks had nearly 200,000 registered students – Udacity was born. Not long after, Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller founded Coursera, followed quickly by edX, founded by Harvard and MIT. Within a year, the big three MOOC providers, Udacity, Coursera, and edX, had nearly 5 million users globally. UK’s Open University launched Futurelearn’s first course in September 2013 and within a year, they had over 1 million course registrations. One month later XuetangX was launched as the first Chinese MOOC platform, initiated by Tsinghua University and the MOE Research Center for Online Education.

2013 saw the emergence of Miríada X for Latam, Open Learning for Southeast Asia and Oceania. India launched Swayam in 2014 and the rest is history as they say.

Signals Analytics

2012 marked an explosive year for MOOCs, bursting into the mainstream media. By October, the New York Times had proclaimed 2012 “The year of the MOOC”.  By 2013, MOOCs had become a worldwide phenomenon and by Q2 2015 some very big predications had been made and ‘disruption fatigue’ had well and truly set in.

At this low point for positive sentiment, a critical mass had declared MOOCs to be a failed experiment. Meanwhile, by 2016 MOOCs had reached over 50 million students globally, and the platforms were amassing partners, incredible insight on learners and evolving their business models.

Since 2017 the volume of signals about MOOCs was declining as the model was generally accepted and found it’s place at the post-secondary table. The market, whilst curious about credentials, had turned its focus back to degrees, only to discover years later MOOCs were ahead of the curve and building both institutional and corporate partnerships and capability through this period.

2019 finished the year with a bang as Coursera became a Unicorn raising $103 million in Venture Capital, led by SEEK in Australia, who not a month later announced a $65m investment in FutureLearn for a 50% stake in the platform. The size of the investments and inferred confidence in the MOOC platforms future caught many by surprise and led a sustained period of positive sentiment.

What’s the future of the MOOC model? How will these platforms evolve and what will be their place in the future post-secondary landscape? We will be tracking all of these questions and more over the next decade and keep you posted.

Where does this data come from?

HolonIQ is the world’s smartest source of global education intelligence to power decisions that matter. We track innovation and investment in education globally, using technology and human experts to analyse and surface key insights. Request a Demo of our Global Education Market Intelligence Platform.

Abstract background of spheres and wire-frame landscape

Related Research

2.5x Global MOOC Web Traffic

26 June 2020. 

MOOC’s digital reach just grew 2.5x, up 300 million monthly visits globally, as isolated learners seek immediate solutions to their knowledge and skills needs amid a rapidly-evolving work landscape.

$74B Online Degree Market in 2025, up from $36B in 2019.

1 May 2020. 

Pre COVID-19, the online degree market was one of the fastest-growing segments of global higher education. A $74B Online Degree Market in 2025 sounds like a lot, but not compared to Global Higher Education, today a $2.2T global industry. Online Degrees would still represent less than 4% of the Global Higher Education Market at these levels.

The $7B Global OPM and Academic PPP Market

24 April 2020. 

OPMs, Pathways, Bootcamps and now ‘Education-as-a-Benefit’. Academic Program Focused Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) in Higher Education are growing rapidly and COVID-19 will only accelerate this 30 year trend.

The MOOC Decade. 380 million students later.

5 February 2020. 

1000+ Universities, 30,000 courses, 50 Degrees and counting.